Review: Costume Quest (Sony PS3)

Costume Quest
Developer: Doublefine Productions
Publisher: THQ
Genre: Turn Based RPG
Release Date: 10/19/2010

I’ve always been a big fan of Tim Schafer’s games. Grim Fandango, The Secret of Monkey Island, Psychonauts and more are all his handiwork. So of course I was excited to see Doublefine Productions making their first traditional RPG and with a Halloween theme to boot.

There aren’t a lot of Halloween themed video games out there. There’s a horrible Atari game based on the MOVIE Halloween, and there are a lot of scary video games that are fun to play around this time of year. But how many video games are there about the actually holiday? The answer is that there really aren’t any save for Costume Quest. As someone that goes up to Salem, MA every year for the biggest Halloween party in the country, I was excited to see a game revolving around costumes and trick or treating. Couple that with one of the guys that gave us Day of the Tentacle and you have the recipe for a winning combination. So was Costume Quest a trick or a treat?

Let’s Review

1. Story

It’s Halloween! It’s time for candy, candy, candy, candy, candy! And costumes. We can’t forget costumes. Our story centers around a pair of twin Wren and Raymond. Both are new to this little town and are forced to trick or treat together. After deciding who you want to play as, you’ll go around town knocking on doors, until your sibling, dressed as a giant piece of candy corn, is mistaken for well, A GIANT PIECE OF CANDY CORN by sweets stealing monsters from another dimension who have come to earth to collect all the sugar treats they can for their boss, a wicked witch, who in turns is collecting the candy for a giant obese grim reaper. Never thought that would be a sentence I’d write.

Anyway, your main character has the ability to make their costumes (and those of their allies) transforms into gigantic super cool versions of themselves in order to engage in combat with creepy things, so You gather your will, and potential costume materials and make your way through three levels filled with turn based battles, side quests and costume collecting.

What I really liked about this game is that the game is both funny and all-ages appropriate. A child in their single digits can have fun with this game just as much as an adult can. It’s all in the multi-leveled writing and the witty sense of humour packed into nearly every line of dialogue. There’s also thirty plus subquests that range from mini-games to trading collectible cards which really breaks up the usual monotony that comes with turn based RPGs. I loved playing through this game and seeing all the crazy new costumes (My final lineup was Ninja, Jack O’Lantern and Unicorn) and my only complaint is that the game was so short. I beat it in two sittings and it’s well under the ten hour mark, even with getting 100% trophy completion. Still, I loved the script and the cast and really hope that we’ll see these characters again in another RPG soon.

Story Rating: Very Good

2. Graphics

Although the graphics in Costume Quest are neither mind blowing nor push the Playstation 3 to their limit, they are pretty adorable. The character designs, both human and monster, fit the all-ages style of the game and are actually pretty detailed for a downloadable RPG. The costume transformation scenes are a blast to watch. I think my favorite one is the French Fry costume because the end result is so wonderfully messed up. One thing I didn’t like though was that for a RPG this short there was still some palette swapping for monsters. I mean, really? Doublefine couldn’t include another half dozen or so monster designs?

The game runs quite nicely and backgrounds are especially detailed for tiny game like this. I really liked how darkness slowly slides away when you use the spaceman costume’s exploration ability. This really is a cute game with a lot more detail than one would expect from a first glance at the graphics. Costume Quest certainly has its own style; that’s for sure.

Graphics Rating: Enjoyable

3. Sound

There is no voice acting in Costume Quest, but I kind of prefer it that way. We all know how bad the voice acting of children tends to be in video games and I feel a lot of the comedy would have fallen flat if voiced. This is definitely a game that works better read than heard. The musical score for the game is simply fantastic, with homages to a few horror movie themes included (most notably Psycho), you’ll find the soundtrack is great as background noise. You don’t really listen to a lot of the music as much of your focus will be on reading or exploring, but give a listen and you’ll find that each track is very nicely done.

Sound effects are pretty good too. Whether it’s the clanking of your Veritech fighter wannabe before it shoots a fist out at a bird-man or the casting of a lightning bolt spell from an enemy, you’ll be impressed by the range of noises in the game. I was particularly impressed by the bobbing for apples mini game because, as odd as it sounds, most games don’t get the splashing of water right. Costume Quest does. This is small but enjoyable for me, and it shows the level of detail Doublefine puts into their games.

All and all, the audio aspects of Costume Quest are enjoyable. There’s nothing distracting or annoying and it feels like an old school RPG romp from a few years ago, albeit funnier and shorter.

Sound Rating: Enjoyable

4. Control and Gameplay

The game’s time is split between turn based RPG battles and exploration mode. Exploration mode basically has you trying to collect all the candy in a level from the houses giving it out. Be careful though, as some of these houses actually have enemies in them. You won’t know whether the house will have humans or monsters, so you’re getting a literal trick or treat here. Exploration mode is also where you’ll play mini games, complete subquests and find pieces for new costumes. Each costume requires three distinct parts, as well as a pattern, and then you have a new choice to wear into battle.

You’ll also be collecting Battle Stamps and Creepy Treat Cards. Creepy Treat Cards serve no purpose save for the rare occasion where you’ll need to trade one for an ultra rare card. Collecting them all nets you a Black Cat costume as well as a trophy, so it is worth it to “catch ’em all.” Battle Stamps can add a variety of aspects to your character’s costume. Each member of your team can have a single battle stamp equipped at a time. One might raise your attack power, another might cause poison splash damage to your enemies, and yet another might give you a special offensive attack in battle. I ended up primarily uses one that really boosted my attack, another that caused splash damage and poison, and another that allowed for counterattacks. In boss battles I changed these to give a character a stun attack and another regeneration (my healer) and left the attack boost on my strongest character. You can really mix and match costumes and battle stamps for a variety of effects, but you’ll quickly realize that the best of each are and stick with those.

Combat is your generic turn based combat. Your side goes first and then your opponent attacks. You can do extra damage (or raise your defense) by following the prompt on the screen. These prompts can range from pressing a specific button to wagging the left analog stick or timing a button hit at a specific moment. It all depends on the costume. Like any turn based game, battles can get a bit dull, but thanks to the variety of costumes and battle stamps (as well as the short length of the game), you never hve to feel like you are grinding. The lack of random battles is a big plus too.

I really had fun with Costume Quest. I loved exploring the levels and doing all the subquests, and combat was both infrequent and scheduled so it never got tedious. I also loved never knowing if I was going to get into a battle or get candy.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Good

5. Replayability

This is really the downfall of the game. Costume Quest is under ten hours long, it’s pretty linear, and the only thing different that will happen on a subsequent playthrough is that you can play as the sibling you didn’t choose in your first outing. You should get all the subquests on your first playthrough as well, so Costume Quest really is a “one and done” game unless you want to go back and experiment for with costumes, or if you just really enjoyed the story.

At least the game’s comedy didn’t grow thin quickly like with Deathspank and you get an actual ending here as well. Still, $15 is pricey for a game that offers little to no replay value and although this is really the only flaw in Costume Quest, it is a pretty big one.

Replayability Rating: Bad

6. Balance

I found most of the battles in Costume Quest to be pretty easy, but then I also spent a lot of time looking at all the costumes and micromanaging their abilities with the Battle Stamps to figure out the best possible combinations. Is it obvious I play mostly SRPGs here? As such I only died once and that was against the second to last boss in the game. This was only because you needed a Stun attack at a specific point and I didn’t have one equipped before I went into battle. Nowhere else in the game do you need a stun attack and so this caught me off guard.

Other than that, it’s just a matter of maximizing your character’s potential and also knowing what to attack. Have everyone attack the same enemy until they are dead, always attack healers first, and make sure characters do added damage, either in the form of increased attack power, splash damage, poison or counter attacks and you’ll never have a problem.

The game does cap your characters’ levels at ten, which sucks a bit as I kept earning XP after I hit level ten and it would have been nice to do something with that. At least the level cap ensures a bit of a challenge with the last two boss fights though and it does take a while to earn each level. It’s funny as I remember games like Eye of the Beholder where your max level is like 10 and that’s a full length RPG and that never bothered me. Maybe I’ve played a little too much Disgaea for my own good.

Overall, Costume Quest is nicely balanced. There are no random battles, combat is easy if you think ahead and will get you killed if you don’t, and the subquests add a lot of depth to an otherwise short game.

Balance Rating: Good

7. Originality

Although Costume Quest follows the trappings of a generic turn-based RPG, it does do a lot of neat things like collecting costume parts, having some timing based events in all aspects of combat, and a variety of subquests to take part in. It’s also the only Halloween themed RPG and the only game I can think of where trick or treating is an integral part of the game. These are minor things, all in all, but they do help the game to stand out a bit from the pack. It’s definitely a case of window dressing making all the difference, but the core game is still a pretty standard turn-based RPG affair.

Originality Rating: Decent

8. Addictiveness

I really had a lot of fun with this game. Usually I’m not a fan of turn based RPGs, but the story and characters made me beat this game in two sessions. Sure it’s short for an RPG, but I finished the first third of the game the night it came out and then did the last two-third the next day as soon as I could. Costume Quest is exactly what I was hoping it would be. It’s fresh, funny, and it’s a RPG about Halloween, trick or treating, and costumes! How can someone not instantly fall in love with that? I’m a big fan of short RPGs if they are done right, and Costume Quest is just that. It was a game I had a hard time putting down. I just wish there was a reason to go back to it.

Addictiveness Rating: Good

9. Appeal Factor

RPGs are pretty popular and comedy games are coming back into vogue after all but disappearing after the collapse of Lucasarts’ adventure game division. Costume Quest really makes the most of both, especially as a downloadable budget game. It’s one of those games where the combat might be a bit dull for some gamers and others might not appreciate the light-heartedness or comical nature of the game, but it is one that the majority of the people that purchase it will get their money’s worth and have fun with. It’s such a weird fun little game that I heartily recommend that everyone at least downloads the demo and TRIES it, if they don’t outright buy it.

Appeal Factor: Good

10. Miscellaneous

Although Deathspank came first, I definitely recommend Costume Quest over it any day. It’s funnier, has a better engine, it doesn’t wear thin after a few hours and it’s a much deeper game. It also helps that this game has a proper ending and more interesting characters. Both are definitely worth the $15 price tag however, although I do see a growing number of people complaining about $14.99 games on PSN. This makes no sense to me, because $14.99 is still pretty good for a budget game, ESPECIALLY when the budget game is well made.

For $14.99 you’re getting a short RPG with a really fun surreal storyline and more subquests that a lot of full length RPGs have. It’s also the perfect time to get this game and it’ll definitely get you in the mood for Halloween. I can’t wait to see what the other three “indie” games Doublefine has cooked up for us are like.

Miscellaneous Rating: Good

The Scores
Story: Very Good
Graphics: Enjoyable
Sound: Enjoyable
Control and Gameplay: Good
Replayability: Bad
Balance: Good
Originality: Decent
Addictiveness: Good
Appeal Factor: Good
Miscellaneous: Good
FINAL SCORE: ENJOYABLE GAME!

Short Attention Span Summary
Costume Quest is a fun little RPG whose only flaw is that there’s no reason to go back to it after you beat it unless you really love the characters and story. Thankfully the story IS a lot of fun, the graphics are stylish and the gameplay is highly amusing. Best of all the game really captures the fun and feel of Halloween, so it’s the perfect time to download this if you haven’t already. Whether you’re bobbing for apples, changing costumes from a French Fry monster into the Statue of Liberty, or just looking to take down some monsters that absconded with your candy corn looking sibling, Costume Quest is well worth experiencing.

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